Wayne Elsey of Soles4Souls Changes the World
A couple of years ago I took part in the Mongol Rally, a charity event that sees hundreds of people each year attempt to drive from the UK to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in aid of Mongolian good causes. This journey was the catalyst for my moving to Ulaanbaatar the following year to work with the charity arm of the Mongol Rally organisation, Adventures for Development.
Both during and after the rally I had the good fortune to get to know some truly incredible people, many of who have devoted their lives to lending a hand to the least among us. I keep in touch with each of them now through Facebook, Skype and email, envying them their lives as they visit exotic locales while I sit here in Mongolia at -30 degrees.
A couple of months ago I got a truly tempting offer. One old friend, Joe, an American from Richmond, Virginia, had put together a team with the idea to tackle the African continent in a couple of clapped out old cars that were due for the scrap heap. While the journey would be mainly for fun, Joe reasoned that he might as well raise a huge pile of money for charity in the process.
Joe's idea was to paint the cars as a pair of sneakers, with laces hanging down from the roof. for many years now Joe has admired the work of Wayne Elsey, founder of the innovative charity Soles4Souls, and he wanted to raise awareness (and funds) to help the charity. Soles4Souls collects old, unused shoes from the people of the western world and takes them where they're needed the most. The charity's business model is simple, transferring our surplus to the developing world and using it not just to put shoes on feet but to foster local enterprise, kickstart economies and offer hope to the hopeless.
I really wish I could join Joe on his epic journey from Egypt to South Africa, but unfortunately I'm needed here. There are lots of people right here in Ulaanbaatar wanting for a pair of shoes, and I couldn't bring myself to leave them now.